Iceland through German Eyes (KH)

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Katharina Hauptmann's picture

A couple of years ago I wrote an article titled Icelandic-German Love Affair about German- Icelandic relations. As a German living in Iceland, this topic is, of course, close to home for me.

Since then, Iceland’s popularity among Germans has only increased. More German tourists than ever before visit the country (about 76,000 in 2013), lots of Icelandic books are being translated for the German-speaking market . Since 2009, Iceland Review Online has also had a German version.

Yes, we Germans love you Iceland!

Thinking about this made me wonder what kind of news from Iceland makes it into the German media. I’m excluding major events like the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010 or the election of comedian Jón Gnarr as Mayor of Reykjavík and other favorite topics such as Icelandic music or literature.

When covering Iceland in the past couple of weeks the German news mostly talked about the following:

Two days ago, Icelander Dagur Sigurðsson was appointed new coach of the German national handball team. The Icelandic handball player and coach has been training German handball team Füchse Berlin since 2009. During his time as active handball player, Dagur was Icelandic champion five times and Austrian champion four times and played 215 international games for his home country and scored 397 goals for Iceland. After winning the Football World Championship this year we are now ready to become Handball World Champion as well.

Almost equally important is the fact that this year Iceland celebrates the 40th anniversary of its great Ring Road (Þjóðvegur). The Route 1, as it is also called, runs around the whole island connecting most of the inhabited parts of the country. The total length of the road is 1,332 km and it was completed in 1974. 

Driving a full circle on the Ring Road is a an all-time favorite trip for tourists and locals as many popular attractions are near the road such as Lake Mývatn, the glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón and Seljalandsfoss waterfall. I have done this trip a few times myself and enjoyed it greatly.

In other news, one German website published an article about the linguistic purism of the Icelandic language. The article claims that Icelandic has more words than there are Icelanders. And we, the Icelandophile Germans, learn that this is due to the fact that in Iceland international loanwords (mostly in English) are being replaced with the creation of new Icelandic words originating from Old Icelandic and Old Norse roots; therefore new loanwords are prevented from entering and “polluting” the Icelandic language. The article also has some great examples for this phenomenon such as skriðdreki which literally translates as “crawling dragon” and simply means “tank,” or gervitungl which is literally a “fake moon” but means “satellite.”

Another story involving German headlines this month was the report of German athlete Gela Allmann who gave an account of her almost lethal accident in Iceland and her subsequent recovery. Gela Allmann is one of Germany’s most experienced alpinists and came to Iceland about four months ago. During a photo shoot she lost her footing on a very steep ice slope and slid down the slope for about 800 meters. She was then rescued and brought to the national hospital and as of today is still going through physical therapy. Allmann said she felt like a crash test dummy banging against the rocks but is lucky to be alive.

As you can see, we Germans just love Iceland. I cannot explain it but it just seems like my native country is besotted with my adopted home. I can very much understand that.

Katharina Hauptmann – katha.hauptmann@gmail.com

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.